Saturday Photo Prompt | July 4th

jmspp_logoLook at the picture below and write a 100 word story. It really is that simple.

If you care to share, either post a link to your story in the comments, or post the whole story.

I can’t wait to see what you write!

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An Alternative to Black Friday Shopping

On this day of intense retail frenzy, as some of you are now reading this post from your smartphone as you stand in line for a cheap doodad or gadget, let me tell you of an alternative to the insanity that is Black Friday shopping.

I was in high school the first and only year my family declared a “Make-it-yourself” Christmas. Things in the budget were pretty tight and it would be a creative opportunity to celebrate the spirit of giving without buying into the commercialization of Christmas. It was a good plan.

And so I set out to create some heart-felt, homemade gifts. For my brother, I was going to make a Cribbage board with an image of Snoopy on it from scrap materials from my dad’s wood shop. For my mom, I was going to make a footstool from scrap materials from my dad’s wood shop. For my dad, I don’t remember what I was going to get him, but there is a healthy chance that it would have been made from scrap materials from his own wood shop.

Do what want to guess what I actually gave them for Christmas that year?

Go ahead, guess.

The answer was nothing. I didn’t give anyone anything that Christmas. I started my brother’s cribbage board, but didn’t finish it in time. My mom’s gift never made it out of the toothpick model phase. And given that I don’t even remember what my dad’s gift was supposed to be, I’d be willing to bet that I didn’t even have a plan formulated for his gift.

Christmas morning came and we took a very short time opening the homemade gifts that everyone else had made. When it came time for people to open their gift from me, I could only apologize and say that I had not yet finished their gifts.

Everyone else had made something for everyone.

But here’s the thing. Ask my family what any of them received for Christmas that year. They won’t be able to remember the gifts that they got. But ask them what I gave that year for Christmas and you’ll get a story. None of them has forgotten the year that I gave nothing. But if that is true, then what I gave them wasn’t truly nothing, I gave them a story to tell. It is a story all about how our family never did the “Make-it-yourself” gift exchange since.

So if you are looking for an alternative to the craziness that is Black Friday, try giving your family nothing. At the very least, you’ll be giving them a story that will stand the test of time, though the same may not hold true for you depending on how important gifts are to your family.

Anyway, Happy Black Friday!If you insist on giving gifts even after reading this plea to do otherwise, do me a favor and shop at a locally owned business, or ever better, buy things from my employer, Baker Book House ( or by phone at 616.957.3110). Thanks for reading!

A King and a Kingdom | Happy 4th of July

Picture taken by Thomas Campbell on 9/24 at the Derek Webb concert at Ecclesia Church in Houston, Tx.When it comes to music, there are people who listen to the CD in its entirety and there are people who get stuck on one song and listen to it over and over. I fall into the latter category, especially when it comes to the music of Derek Webb.

I first heard Derek on the self-titled Caedmon’s Call record back in the early 2000’s. I think my brother is the one who introduced me to Caedmon’s Call. Anyway, back then, the song that I got stuck on was “Center Aisle.” Even now, I can’t listen to the song just once when it comes up on my iPod.

But what does that have to do with the 4th of July?

Ever since he went solo, Derek Webb has been a prophetic voice in the classic sense of reproving the church. His songs are not toe-tapping ditties meant to entertain. They are calls to action, uncomfortable reminders, and scourging truths. That said, they still fall into the “can’t listen to it just once” category for me. Maybe because I need to hear the truth again and again for it to sink in. Maybe I just enjoy the songs.

Either way, I wanted to share the lyrics for Derek Webb’s song “A King and a Kingdom” today, as Americans feel the swell of patriotism, in order that we may not forget that if we are Christians, the USA is not our final home and our allegiance is owed to one greater than this country or any country.


A King and a KingdomMockingbird

 Appears on: Mockingbird

Who’s your brother, who’s your sister
You just walked past him, I think you missed her
As we’re all migrating to a place where our Father lives
‘Cause we married into a family of immigrants

So my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It’s to a King and a Kingdom

There are two great lies that I’ve heard
The day you eat of the fruit of that tree you will not surely die
And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle class Republican
And if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like him


And nothing unifies like a common enemy
And we’ve got one sure as hell
He may be living in your house
He may be raising up your kids
He may be sleeping with your wife
Oh he may not look like you think